Raina Sabharwal Thakur (Class of 2007) on pursuing LLM in US and being an independent practicing advocate

Raina Sabharwal Thakur is from the batch of 2002-2007. Upon graduating from AIL, she first worked under Mr. Shergill and then went on to pursue LLM from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, New York City on scholarship.

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Blue Pencil: Why did you choose to pursue law and why AIL? What in your opinion is the unique thing about AIL?

Raina Sabharwal Takur: I was a Biology student in 12th but due to my uncles and maternal grandfather being lawyers, law had been a fascination and option as a career at the back of my mind. In the midst of all entrance exams like AIEEE and AFMC and AIIMS I was very much interested in applying for law as well and what better option for Fauji kids to join an environment that’s like home. The entrance went well and the PI was also great.

The foremost reason to join AIL was the assurance that as it is being managed by the Army it would inculcate in us values and principles which are in tune to the ones we have been taught since childhood. It would take care of the interests of its students and would not be like other commercial colleges. The faculty was also a plus and the management was well equipped.

The most unique thing about AIL is that it runs on the principles adopted by the Army and also focuses on giving its students complete freedom and exposure to the outside world so that when Army kids step and work in the civil environment they can adjust and achieve their goals easily.

BP: How was your journey at AIL?

RST: The time spent at AIL were the best years of my life indeed. Apart from the extracurricular activities and the parties that we enjoyed, I was also one of the Placement coordinators of 2007. We were given complete freedom to explore new horizons and were given complete support by the faculty and management to approach new law firms and companies so that they could place our students in campus interviews. We had designed a unique brochure with the support of our management. The faculty including Tejinder Mam, Rajinder Mam, Shruti Bedi, Anjana Kakkad, Bajirao Sir and many others always supported us and were personally involved in helping us.

I had interned with various top law firms like Luthra and Luthra and top offices at Chandigarh like Sarin and co., Rajinder Singh Cheema and also the AG Office.

BP: Back in your college days, which was the most preferred hangout of AIL students?

RST: I was a day scholar then but was in the girls hostel most of the time. Our favorite hangout at that time was the Canteen on the first floor.

BP: Please tell us more about your LLM and the application procedure.

RST: After practicing at the High Court for 2.5 years, I decided to explore global horizons and started the application process for LLM in the States. I had done the process all by myself and had applied to 5 universities including Cornell, New York University, Cardozo School of Law Yeshiva University at New York, Fordham and Columbia. I had applied for the September session but got a scholarship from Cardozo and they called me for the January session so I applied for my visa and joined there in January.

The application process is a little complicated so you need to study that a bit. Also, you should start preparing 8 months in advance while applying. TOEFL English exams needs to be qualified and the score has to be accepted by the college you are aspiring to join.  Another important thing is to take your transcripts from the university. I would strongly recommend that everyone who is passing out and planning for LLM should take recommendation letters from teachers and also transcripts from their college. I remember I had to visit Punjabi university so many times and it got really tedious. Transcripts are basically your final scores and mark sheets printed and attested by the university and sealed in an envelope which has to be sent to every college you are applying to. This takes a lot of time and energy and should be done straight after college. Apply for atleast 7 copies to be on the safer side. Making a statement of purpose is very important, and if anyone is struggling with that can surely approach me for help.

BP: Why litigation? What are the struggles that a female attorney encounters?

RST: I had started interning from my second year and started with law firms like Amitabh Sen and Luthra in Delhi. Then I joined a law office at Delhi. Thereafter, I joined one criminal office of Mr. Sarin and a criminal office i.e. of Mr. Cheema at Chandigarh. It is always better to explore possibilities during your 5 years of law. I wanted to get the hang of the style of working in law firms, corporate houses and litigation practice during that time so that it’s easy to decide my path later.

I always wanted to argue and handle clients one on one. Also due to the influence of my uncles who are lawyers in Delhi, I was keen on taking litigation as my forte.

After graduating, I was a junior to Mr. Shergill at the High Court, Chandigarh and luckily was given many opportunities to argue matters at all levels starting from the Consumer forum till the High Court. Thereafter, after pursuing my LLM, I returned to India and decided to take up litigation independently. It was a difficult decision at that time as litigation does not guarantee you a fixed salary and fixed leaves, but I was very sure of my decision. I started with 1 independent client in 2011 and have many now. It is all about the right efforts that you put and also the sincerity that you offer your clients. 

If a female enters the profession, first of all, she has to understand that it is a male-dominated profession and she should be comfortable with this fact. However, this does not mean that she cannot pave her way. It’s all about the attitude and spirit with which you enter the Court every day. I travel to districts like Kharar, Samrala, Ludhiana, Mohali also apart from the High Court but have never felt that females are being singled out. I think its all about your attitude and the way you handle people around you.

The challenges that you face in litigation are that there is no fixed income and every day is a new day with new challenges. There is no PF that is being deposited as a fixed deposited. But a positive outlook, hard work, patience and sincerity would take you a long way. 

BP: Any advice for students planning to pursue litigation as a career?

RST: I would recommend every law graduate to join the profession and do what a lawyer is supposed to do, i.e. face the Judge and get relief for your client. I know it’s challenging and demands a lot of work but then it’s worth the effort and the most important tip would be that if you have thought of litigating then stick to that decision and don’t loose patience. We are always there to guide you with endless questions all the time.

Raina Sabharwal Takur can be reached at sabharwal.raina@gmail.com.

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